Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Kids, it's time to clean your rooms!

Do you know what I enjoy less than cleaning my room?

Cleaning my kids' rooms.

Fortunately, my kids are old enough to do a lot of the work themselves. Ah, but do they? Well, a little, yes. Over the years, I have asked the kids to take responsibility for their belongings and the messes they make with said belongings. This usually works about 0% of the time.

Guess what HAS worked: Bribery!

I'm not advocating senseless consumerism, mind you. When it comes to cleaning and organizing my kids' bedrooms, I offer them a change in landscape, a shift in setting, a new pad. The room of their dreams. We make lists of all of the changes they would like to make to their rooms, prioritizing the top 3-5 changes.

Then the shiz gets real: we talk about money.

My kids know that their parents are not billionaires and cannot install digital libraries and sound systems, cannot hire architects to build swimming pools and secret rooms within their rooms or under their beds, cannot buy vintage egg chairs (although that would be cool). The priority list must take into consideration how much items cost (including paint) and how time-intensive the change will be.

A wardrobe through which you can actually walk into Narnia? Yes, please!

So far, this bribery has worked.

Last summer, I painted my daughter's room navy blue. Yes, I know. Navy. It looks surprising good! We received a set of shelves from a neighbor, so the paint and the shelves happened first -- cheap, quick changes that made a huge impact. Next, we found a comforter that looked more grown-up than her pastel patchwork quilt. Lastly, we added an IKEA desk (no recalls on that baby . . . yet) and some curtains from Urban Outsiders. A year later, we haven't quite finished, because rugs are expensive and we need to find time for my husband to hammer and screw things into the walls. I'm not being sexist about the delineation of responsibilities (I purchase, he hammers). I know my limits and this lady cannot hold a hammer without destroying the plaster. Walls tremble at my approach.

I will say, however, that this lag in movement has led to some sloppy habits on my daughter's part. She hasn't taken pride in the finished product yet, so she leaves every string bag and duffle from weekend trips and overnights on the floor and the new desk is covered in clothes, art utensils, stuff.

To remedy this remaining clutter, we are offering to switch her bed to a bigger bed -- one we've had in storage. She's excited about this, about finally getting the rug, the pictures on the walls, the stuffed animals storage netting, and has asked me to help her go through her belongings.

Similarly, we bought my son a bunk bed from friends last year, but were not ready to install it. He needed to gain more independence sleeping in his own bed and not crawling into ours at 2:00 a.m. A year later, we're ready! I met with him last week in his room and took notes. We decided on a couple paint options, furniture moves, stuffed animal solutions, what he's keeping and we boxed up items to give away. He instigated! I'm thrilled to say his floor is clean and so is his closet and bedside table. We have minimal items to purchase or restore. We have a plan. And he's excited to get started.

So, I have some questions for you:

  1. How do you motivate your kids to clean their room?
  2. How do you motivate them to keep it clean?
  3. How do you decide whether to keep, store, donate, or recycle items?

Check out this simple graphic from MakeSpace when you find yourself holding items and breaking into a sweat. I used a similar system when I culled clothing from my closet, kitchen pantry, the kids' school work. And once you're done, it's like a butterfly of freedom has flown from your body!


Friday, February 12, 2016

Sequencing for the ADHD Parent and Child

source: wikihow.com
My children's behavior often causes me to reflect upon my own. For instance, my daughter is smart, funny, and highly motivated towards academic success. At her age -- tween -- I, too, was smart, sarcastic, and determined to earn all As in school. Whenever we drive together, she sits quietly in the backseat daydreaming out the window. That was me in 6th-12th grade as well. My son, who I usually compare to my husband, both in looks and behavior, is the complete -- and I do mean complete -- opposite of both my daughter and me. He chats incessantly, makes constant and persistent jokes of the look-at-me variety. He is rarely quiet, rarely still, and doesn't daydream. And while he is definitely smart, and he cares about his grades and classroom success, motivating him to do, well, anything, is a challenge.

I'm in no way suggesting that my son, who is 9, is lazy. But he is disorganized and not terribly concerned about it. I, too, am disorganized, but . . . I care a lot about it. In fact, I care so much about my disorganization that I overcompensate and get micro-managey towards my family, friends, and peers. It's not that I think everyone around me is incompetent; it's that I know I can be incompetent and I have to reiterate the sequencing of priorities, post my To-Do list on the kitchen counter, and tell everyone around me not to disturb the mess on my desk because my sense of order is so delicate that a misplaced paper could upset the entire system.

But, back to my son. I realize that the kid probably has ADHD. He's doomed with two ADHD parents and he has exhibited ADHD behavior (albeit, mild in comparison to some of the kids in his school) since he was in preschool. I'm just more aware of it because I'm correcting his homework, having to stay on top of him to practice for his drum lessons, and just getting dressed in the morning is a chore.

Let's look at that last bit, the getting dressed in the morning. I'll admit it, sometimes I go over my mental list of what I need to do to get ready in the morning to make sure that yes, I put on my deodorant. My son can get dressed on his own without problem when he's motivated (i.e. I reward him with a show or time on his iPod or LEGOs, when time permits), but more mornings than others I find him lost in the process, half dressed sitting on the heating vent complaining that we're going to be late. Another processing -- or sequencing, if you like -- trait that I've noticed he does is verbally acknowledge his to-do list. Almost every morning he comes upstairs while I'm getting ready and announces what he has to do:

Him: "Okay, so I am going to get dressed, brush my teeth, go to the bathroom, and get my shoes on."

Me: "Right. Don't forget we have to brush your hair, too."

This happens, like I said, almost every morning. It's as if he doesn't say the list out loud, he's going to forget to put on his shoes, or go to the bathroom. But I know he needs to do this to keep his brain in order. I see nothing at all wrong with this habit. It helps him and he figured that out instinctively.

As I was getting out of my car after dropping my son off at school this morning, I noticed that while I wasn't verbalizing my to-do list, I was mentally figuring out the sequence for getting out of the car:

Me: "Okay, so I need to pick up my purse, but I also have a cup of coffee and a box of papers and only two hands. Better get out of the car first and walk around to the passenger side to get everything so I don't spill the coffee and dump the papers on the ground."

Maybe we aren't such a mess, my son and I. Maybe he is a lot like me and I like him. Maybe we need a little prompting to put on our pants in the morning, but we get it done . . . usually without spilling our drinks.